This story was written in response to a prompt, “ You find an alien object in your garden” for #StoryAWeek on the WriMo India group.
They were looking for her. She could hear their voices, calling out to her.
“Come out, Sania!”
“No one’s going to hurt you, I promise.”
That was her father.
The same old promise, thought Sania, with a sneer.
They always said that. No one will hurt you, and yet they did. Time after time.
She didn’t blame them. She was different. She knew it, and so did they. It was like raising a wolf cub among a flock of sheep. The sheep were kind and tried to love the wolf cub, but, they couldn’t really ignore its sharp teeth. They knew that given a chance, those huge canines could shred them to bits. They knew that the wolf was trying to curb its natural predatory tendencies out of respect for the ones who raised it. But, what if, one unfortunate day, that tightly leashed hunger slipped the leash?
And, it would. Of course, it would. Nature didn’t raise no dummies. One day, Wolfie would look at its sheep siblings, and instead of seeing the love in those dumb eyes, it would see fear and weakness. Instead of seeing its brothers, it would see prey, and that day, it would pounce. Survival of the fittest and all that.
Sania knew she was a wolf living with a family of sheep.
If she didn’t know better, she’d have thought she was exchanged at birth. But, there was no escaping the Shetty nose. Her father had it, her uncles all had it, and unfortunately, so did Sania. No amount of oil massage could make that bulbous appendage any smaller.
Now, hidden in the tiny bathroom of the outhouse, Sania examined said nose, in the weak light of the dying bulb, and shuddered. Then, she smiled, a twisted smile, full of a secret knowledge. That nose would not protect the sheep when Wolfie got the munchies. She turned to the door and listened. Footsteps approached the outhouse and Sania tensed. She wasn’t ready. He had told her to wait for the signal.
“We need some more time, my pumpkin,” he’d whispered in her ear.
“A few more days, and then, nothing can keep us apart. I’ll take you away from all of this. We’ll be happy,” he’d promised.
“Fine, but, before you take me away, I’m going to destroy all of them,” she warned.
“You shall have your revenge. They will pay for all those years of pain,” he’d vowed.
“How? They’re so strong and powerful. My Appa has a small army of thugs, and a wall full of weapons. Not to mention those monsters he lets loose on me ever so often,” she’d whimpered, scared at the thought of facing those monsters.
“Do they scare you, my love?”
“Only when they’re in front of me. When they’re not, they just make me angry. So angry, that I want to rip out their throats and bathe in their blood,” she’d wailed on a tortured whisper.
“Shhh! It’ll happen. Your wish is my command,” he’d teased.
That’s why she loved him so much. He was the only one who got her, and he’d do anything to keep her happy.
When he’d first approached her with the truth of her real identity, Sania had refused to believe him. She’d been so blind, content to live with the sheep. Slowly, when she started noticing the differences between her and her family, she’d turned to him for information. Secretly, away from prying eyes and long ears, he had taught her who she really was. He’d been assigned to keep her safe, and maybe it was a cliche to fall in love with one’s body guard, but, Sania didn’t care. Neither did he. And now, he was going to liberate her from these people who had snatched her from her true family, and stripped away her identity. She was going back to her real world, where she actually belonged. Not yet, though. She had to wait for his signal.
“Sania! Are you in there? We’re worried, my child. Where are you?”
“Appa, she won’t be in there. She’s afraid of the dark,” said her younger sister, the little lamb.
“Please! It’s not that she’s afraid of the dark. She’s just too princess-y to get her clothes dirty. She’s definitely not hiding in such a dingy place,” snarked her older brother, the dirty dirty sheep, who was going to die first, before she got to anyone else.
The footsteps slowly veered away. Sania made herself comfortable on the rug that she’d had the fore-sight to bring, and waited.
Finally, she heard it, the call that she’d been waiting for.
“Sania, my love, we’re here!”
“Finally! I’m in the outhouse, hiding in the bathroom.”
“Okay, are you ready for this?”
“Yes! I’ve been waiting for this moment,” swore Sania.
“My army’s here, waiting to go on a rampage. Once we get you out of there, you and I will go slaughter us some sheep,” he said, with a cackle.
“What’re you waiting for? Get me out of here. Is the perimeter clear?”
“Yes. But, nothing is ever easy.”
“What do you mean?”
“We have no physical presence in your world, right now, not until you open the gates for us.”
“How do I do that?”
“Come out of the outhouse. There is a portal to hell, right behind it. You just have to open it.”
“Okay, on my way.”
Sania made her way out and looked around nervously. It was two am, and her family was fast asleep.
“I don’t see any door.”
“It won’t look like a door. Any object invested with the right incantation can be a portal into our world.”
“So, how do I identify it?”
“It’s made of metal, and when you see it, you’ll be compelled to touch it, because I’ve put an access charm with your name on it.”
Sania started searching frantically. To be so close, yet so far, was unbearable. There was a small shed behind the outhouse, used to store gardening tools. Her gaze kept going to the shed, like it was calling out to her. Slowly, she walked towards it. That feeling was getting stronger, and when she stood in the doorway, it reached a crescendo.
All of Sania’s attention was focused on the shiny, almost alien object lying on the floor of the shed. She had never seen anything like it. It was almost glowing. Her fingers itched to touch it.
“Found it,” she whispered. She heard his indrawn breath.
“Pick it up,” he ordered.
Sania bent down and picked it up.
“Now, you open the door to your freedom. But, the portal keepers demand a price to let you in. Are you willing to pay it?”
“Of course,” she replied. “What’s the currency?”
Three days later
Dr. Vijay Dutt, a renowned psychiatrist, exclaimed in anger and threw the newspaper on the floor in disgust.
“Baba! What happened?” His daughter, Dr. Bindiya Dutt, an upcoming psychiatrist herself, asked.
“Did you read the papers?”
“Not yet, Baba. What’s going on?”
“Remember our patient Sania Shetty?”
“The paranoid schizophrenic?”
“Yes. She disappeared from her house, four days ago, and was found the next day, in an old shed in the garden, lying on the floor. She’d cut her throat with a scythe.”
Dr. Bindiya gasped in horror.
“That’s awful! Are they sure it was suicide?”
“Oh yes! The coroner’s report was clear on that. I had warned them! I told them to be careful. She needed to be institutionalised,” Dr. Dutt burst out.
“You were worried she’d kill herself?”
“Actually, I was more worried that she’d hurt her family. Her paranoia was extreme, and she had a lot of latent anger towards her family. Plus, she was hallucinating about some guy telling her that she was a princess from hell, and that he would rescue her. I think those hallucinations were triggered by some stupid Sadhu baba-type telling her that she was possessed by a demon. She kept telling me that she was a wolf and that her family were lambs waiting to be slaughtered.”
“I remember her as having a lot of anger towards everyone. Remember when she was brought here? She was screaming at us for so long, calling us monsters,” mused Dr. Bindiya.
“She’d been traumatised by the Electroconvulsive Therapy given by some backwoods psychiatrist who hadn’t updated his knowledge. That poor girl had gone through hell until she came here. The father is filthy rich, but, uneducated. He was willing to try every shortcut to cure Sania, except medicine. The whole family is a little dysfunctional. The mother refused to care for such a troubled child. The older brother thought that she was faking it all, for attention. She wasn’t even taking her medication regularly, and no one cared.”
“Don’t feel so low, Baba. You did your best.”
“If only they had institutionalised her, we could have helped her so much,” said Dr. Dutt, sadly.